10 Oct

Eucharis grandiflora, the Amazon Lily

Eucharis is a small genus of tropical bloomers from South America – particularly from the rainforests of the western basin of the Amazon. These lovely bloomers are quite easy to grow and produce lovely flowers almost all through the year in tropical climates. The most popular species in the genus is Eucharis grandiflora which is supposed to be a cross of Eucharia moorei and Eucharia sanderi.

Eucharis grandiflora is an excellent plant for containers as well as gardens. It is suitable for growing in shaded parts of the garden where it requires filtered sunlight and moist soil. The plant is characterized by green and glossy foliage that makes this plant very attractive. Daffodils-like flowers of white color appear on long stalks. Flowers are fragrant and last long that is why, it makes an excellent choice as cut flower.

Eucharis grandiflora, the Amazon Lily

Eucharis grandiflora, the Amazon Lily /Image by Jan Smith

Eucharis grandiflora is commonly known as Amazon Lily because of its origin. In its natural habitat, it produces large clumps that are often found full of flowers. Since these plants come from tropical climate, they require protection from frost and freezing temperature.

08 Oct

Lovely and Colorful Foliage Plants: Coprosma

Coprosma is a genus of ornamental and very useful shrubs and small trees from New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. These evergreen plants are known for their glossy and leathery foliage that makes them attractive houseplants. Most species of Coprosma are quite easy to grow and maintain. Traditionally these foliage plants have been used to make effective hedges and borders. However, Coprosma offers a wide variety of small to large ornamental shrubs that can be grown as specimen plants in gardens and landscapes.

Coprosma 'Tequila Sunburst'

Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunburst’/ Image by Leonora Enking

Most species of Coprosma can be grown in poor and sandy soil though they benefit from rich and loamy soil as well. Young plants require regular watering until they are established and are ready to withstand drought. The best spot for Coprosma plants is a brightly lit corner where it can establish its roots and become a sturdy plant.

Popular species of Coprosma include:

Coprosma repens (Mirror Plant) – Grows as small tree and can be trimmed back to make an ornamental border or hedge.

Coprosma robusta – A quick growing and a sturdy, small tree that can grow up to 3 meters; good choice for creating borders and screens.

Coprosma ernodeoides

Coprosma ernodeoides/ Image by David Eickhoff

A number of hybrids and new cultivars are widely grown these days. Some of the popular cultivars are:

Coprosma ‘Pacific Sunset’, Coprosma ‘Clearwater Gold’, and Coprosma ‘Rainbow Surprise’.

07 Oct

Delicate Bloomer of Borders and Flower Beds: Ornithogalum

Ornithogalum is a large genus of bulbous perennials from southern Europe and South Africa. These striking bloomers are quite easy to grow and care under full or partial sun and a little warmth. Though the genus of Ornithogalum is not very well known but it has a great horticulture value. Suitable for borders or raised flower beds, Ornithogalums produce beautiful flowers of striking colors. The flowers range from white, orange and yellow in color. These flowers grow on long stalks and serve as long lasting cut flowers. Leaves are grassy and tender to frost (except for the European varieties).

Generally Ornithogalums requite deep and rich soil with regular watering and bright sunlight. In cold climates, they can be planted indoor where they are protected from heavy frost.

Ornithogalum kochii

Ornithogalum kochii/ Image by Amadej Trnkoczy

Popular species of Ornithogalum include:

Ornithogalum thyrsoides (Star of Bethlehem) that grows up to 50 cm and produces long lasting cut flowers of white color.

Ornithogalum saundersiae (Giant Chincherinchee) produces extra-long stalks (up to 1.5 meters) of small white flowers produced in summer.

Ornithogalum arabicum forms large clumps of grassy plants and produces very prominent and delicate flowers of white color.

02 Oct

Tropical Flowering Shrub: Odontonema strictum, Firespike

The plant in picture is Odontonema strictum which is a versatile and useful shrub for tropical climates. Known by the names of Firespike, Cardinal Guard and Scarlet Flame, Odontonema strictum is grown for its fresh green foliage and spikes of showy flowers. It is a good plant to grow in borders, landscapes or in empty spaces where it can spread quickly to fill in the space with a plenty of foliage and branches. The branches that grow from the underground can grow as high as 6 feet. However, it can be easily pruned to keep in proper shape and under control.

Odontonema strictum

Odontonema strictum/ Image by Lady_Elixir (flickr)

Odontonema strictum originally belongs to the Central America but grown widely in many tropical regions of the world for its crimson flowers. The flowers usually appear in summer and attract a lot of butterflies and hummingbirds. In fact, it is any easy way to invite hummingbirds to the garden.

Odontonema strictum is quite easy to grow as it only requires a good but well-drained soil. Young plants thrive well with regular watering but once established it can easily withstand spells of drought. It also does well under all light conditions but prefers filtered and bright sunlight.

Odontonema strictum is propagated from seeds or softwood cuttings.

30 Sep

Ricinus communis, Castor Oil Plant for Gardens and Landscapes

Ricinus communis, commonly known as castor oil plant, is an interesting foliage plant for warm climates where it grows as a small tree (up to 5 to 10 meters). Castor oil plant is usually grown as specimen plant in landscapes for its striking foliage. In the growing season, the plant can be seen covered with new foliage of purplish-red color in contrast with older deep green color. The flowers are insignificant but the seeds pods are quite showy and colorful.

Ricinus communis, the Castor Oil Plant

Ricinus communis, the Castor Oil Plant/ Image by Katja Schulz

Ricinus communis originally belongs to warmer climates of Africa and the Indian sub-continent, however, it is grown is many tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. Though it makes a good plant for horticulture, Ricinus communis is an important medicinal plant as well. The seeds of Ricinus communis are source of castor oil which is widely used for many commercial purposes. It is used in preparation of fine quality lubricant for automobiles and other machinery. Castor oil extracted from the seeds of Ricinus communis is also used in manufacturing of paints, cosmetics and soap industry.

Ricinus communis is a fast growing plant for warmer climates. In horticulture, various cultivars are grown as ornamental plants. Some of the popular verities of castor oil plants include: Ricinus communis ‘Red spire’ (red stem and bronze foliage), ‘Impala’ (reddish foliage), and Ricinus communis ‘Gibsonii’ (reddish foliage and pinkish seed pods).

21 Sep

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis, the Sad Tree

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis has many popular names – Night Jasmine, Coral Jasmine, Sad Tree, Parijat and Lover’s Tree. The plant justifies all of these pretty names. Legend has it Parijataka who was a beautiful princess fell in love with the sun but the sun deserted her. The mournful princess committed suicide. From ashes of the sad princess sprung a beautiful tree. Unable to stand the sight of the lover who left her, the tree blooms only at night and sheds its flowers before the sun rises.

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis/ Image by Dinesh Valke

How to Grow Nyctanthes arbor-tristis

The plant growing in my garden is now 5 years old and these days it is blooming profusely. Every day, I see a carpet of white flowers under the ‘sad’ plant. Anyway, Nyctanthes arbor-tristis is a nice plant to grow in the garden. It is not fussy about soil or water. In fact, it is quite hardy and prefers a little neglect.

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis grows as a shrub or a small tree (up to 5 meters). The coarse leaves cover straggling branches and make it a good foliage plant for filling in empty spaces in the garden. Small flowers of white color with orange center appear in summer. These scented flowers are rather short lived – they bloom at night and drop before rising of the sun.

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis grows natively in tropical climate of Pakistan and spreads across tropical regions of India, Bengladesh, Nepal and Thailand.

Besides its ornamental value, Nyctanthes arbor-tristis has various medicinal uses. The leaves are antibacterial and are used for the treatment of fungal infection, cough, and snakebite. Flowers are source of a yellow dye which is used to color clothes.  The lovely flowers of Nyctanthes arbor-tristis are also used in Hindu rituals and for preparing garlands that is why it is the plant is also known as Haar Singhar (meaning: beautification or make up).

19 Sep

Spiny yet Lovely Plants of Mammillaria

Mammillaria is a large genus of globular or cylindrical spiny plants from Mexico and south-western part of the USA. It is also one of the best representatives of the Cactus family because of its beautiful formation and flowering.

Mammillaria sheldonii

Mammillaria sheldonii/ Image by Manuel M. Ramos

Most species of Mammillaria have small bristles-like spines that cover the globular or cylindrical body of the plant. Flowers appear near top of the plant and form a beautiful crown of silky and sometimes fragrant flowers. Flowering is followed by formation of colorful seed capsules that can be plucked and dried to obtain tiny seeds. Mature plants produce many offsets that usually appear at the bottom of the plant.

Mammillaria geminispina

Mammillaria geminispina/ Image J Brew (flickr)

Mammillaria are quite easy to maintain as they only require bright sunlight, well-drained soil and regular watering. Since it is the largest genus of the Cactus family, Mammillaria offers a wide range of ornamental plants for container gardening. Some Mammillarias remain solitary whereas some form large clumps. Some Mammillarias grow in cylindrical shape, and some attain globular shape. Some Mammillarias have long and hooked spines whereas some have tiny bristles.

Most species of Mammillaria grow easily from seeds or offsets. Like other plants in the Cactus family, Mammillarias are quite slow growers but easy to maintain and propagate. These drought-tolerant plants only require hibernation in winter and protection from frost and high level of humidity.

Mammillaria candida

Mammillaria candida/ Image by Blossfeldiana (flickr)

12 Sep

Little, Lovely, and Plentiful Bloomer: Diascia, the Twinspur

Diascia is a small genus of low-growing annuals and perennials that bloom in all shades of peach, pink, mauve, magenta and purple. Most species are excellent bloomers that give stunning display of colorful flowers in spring and summer. These small ornamentals are perfect choice for containers, window boxes, borders and rockeries for their small size and prolific flowering.

Diascia Flowers

Diascia Flowers/ Image by Clive Reid

Most species of Diascia are low-growing and sprawling plants that are perfect for filling empty spaces in gardens, landscapes, containers or windows. These small plants bear small, oval leaves of dark green colors. The unusual flowers have two horns or spurs below them that give them their common name ‘Twinspur’.

Originally native to South Africa, Diascias are grown in many tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world where they grow under full to partial sun. These small ornamentals are usually grown from seeds and used as container plants for summer flowering. Most species of Diascia prefer regular watering and a slightly acidic and well-drained soil.

Popular species of Diascia include:

Diascia integerrima (Pink Adobe) – A small perennial (up to 450 mm) with pink flowers that bloom almost through the warm months.

Diascia ‘Sun Chimes Coral’ – A popular variety growing up to 1.5 feet with attractive coral-pink flowers.

Diascia ‘Whisper White’ – Another popular hybrid with pure white flowers.

Diascia ‘Dew Drops’ – A popular variety among horticulturists; produces beautiful white flowers with a yellow center.

Diascia varieties

Colorful Diascias/ Image by Alwyn Ladell

10 Sep

Ornamental Red Ginger Plant: Alpinia purpurata

Alpinia purpurata, commonly known as Red Ginger, is an ornamental perennial that forms large leafy clumps. Originally native to tropical regions of the Central America and Asia, Alpinia purpurata is grown in many parts of the world as ornamental foliage plant.

Alpinia purpurata, the Red Ginger plant

Alpinia purpurata, the Red Ginger plant/ Image by Cliff (flickr)

Like other plants in this genus, Alpinia purpurata grows best in a rich soil and under partial sun. The plant benefits from plenty of water in spring and summer and dry conditions in winter. Alpinia purpurata is a nice addition to tropical gardens because of its lovely foliage and bright red plumes of bracts. These attractive bracts surround white flowers of Alpinia purpurata.

Alpinia purpurata propagates itself from offspring that branch under the colorful bracts. Once the plant has bloomed, the branches droop to the ground level allowing small offspring to develop roots and become independent plants.

Alpinia purpurata is usually grown to add colorful effect to garden or landscape design. The plant can grow up to 5 meters; however, it is usually pruned back after every flowering season to obtain fresh foliage and flowers in the following season.

09 Sep

Lovely Foliage and Flowering Trees: Melaleuca

Melaleuca is a genus of evergreen shrubs and small trees from Australia. The genus is known for its horticultural use as well as medicinal effects and soothing properties.

Melaleuca are popular ornamental plants in tropical or sub-tropical climates where they are grown for their vibrant foliage and attractive flowers. The foliage is usually fragrant, the trunk has silvery bark, and the flowers that resemble the blooms of Callistemon are white, yellow, pink or red.

Melaleuca tree

Melaleuca tree/ Image by Tatiana Gerus

How to Grow Melaleuca

The plants in the genus of Melaleuca vary greatly in their size. Some species grow as shrubs that grow up to 3 – 5 meters whereas some of the species grow into small trees that can gain the height of 6 – 8 meters. Melaleucas can be grown easily from seeds or cuttings. They prefer sunny exposure, a well drained soil and regular watering.

Popular species of Melaleuca include:

M. nesophylla (Tea Myrtle) – Small tree (up to 6 meters) with spongy bark and pompon shapes flowers of pink color.

M. lanceolata – Clustering shrub (up to 5 meters) with small and narrow leaves. White flowers resembling bottle brush appear in summer and attract a lot of birds and butterflies.

M. huegelii (Honey Myrtle) – Evergreen shrub (up to 3 meters) with dense clusters of spiky flowers of white or pink color.

M. trichophylla – Small spreading shrub with globular clusters of pink, reddish pink or purple flowers in late winter to early summer.

M. lateritia – Commonly known as the Robin Red-breast Bush, M. lateritia grows as an erect shrub (up to 2 meters) and produces attractive red flowers in summer.